The Senate’s confirmation of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is a historic step toward the recovery of America’s Constitutional order after years of regulatory overreach.
It also puts at the helm of one of the most powerful federal regulatory agencies someone committed to the rule of law, agency transparency, and accountability to the public, and to sound science and common-sense cost/benefit calculation as indispensable parts of responsible regulation.
To nobody’s surprise, the environmental Left went apoplectic when President Donald Trump nominated Pruitt.
The Greens saw only that Pruitt had repeatedly sued the EPA, that he dared to say publicly what every climate scientist knows but dare not say (that although human contribution to global warming is pretty well certain, its magnitude and consequences are hotly debated even in the climate science community), and that he didn’t think every oil, gas, and coal company is the devil incarnate.
The reality, as the Cornwall Alliance expressed in an open letter supporting Pruitt’s nomination, signed by nearly 150 scientists and hundreds of ordinary citizens and quoted and entered into public record by Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) during Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, is that Pruitt is well suited to the position:
The EPA has the crucial task of writing and enforcing regulations that apply statutes passed by Congress and signed by the President to protect the life and health of Americans. Its work necessarily integrates science, economics, law, politics, and ethics, all of which are rooted in religious worldviews. A good administrator must demonstrate expertise in at least some of these, and mature understanding of and receptivity to the insights of all. Scott Pruitt does.
Pruitt’s lawsuits—some successful, some not, some pending—against the EPA focused mainly on whether the agency had proper statutory authority for some of its regulations and had followed proper procedures in adopting them, not on whether the regulations wisely addressed real dangers, i.e., they sought to enforce the rule of law, not impose policy.
He expressed his view of climate change in an article in National Review in May of last year: “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”
Pruitt, then Attorney General of Oklahoma, expressed that opinion, which anyone who reads the massive assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognizes as fully consistent with them, along with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. They were rightly rebuking “AGs United for Clean Power,” a patently partisan group threatening civil and criminal investigation and prosecution of corporations, think tanks, and individuals who dare exercise their First Amendment rights to say they disagree with the alleged consensus that human-induced global warming is rapid and catastrophic and requires total transformation of the global energy infrastructure, costing $1 to $2 trillion per year through the rest of this century, to avert.
Jeff Holmstead, who under the George W. Bush Administration headed up EPA’s air and radiation office, rightly said, “Whoever was nominated by President Trump, the environmental community was going to demonize.”
But as Susan Hogan and Sean Sullivan reported in The Washington Post after Pruitt’s confirmation, Holmstead, “thinks Pruitt will prove to his critics and to EPA employees that he does believe in the agency’s core mission, even as he has argued that the EPA overstepped its legal authority under Obama.”
Holmstead believes Pruitt will be a good administrator: “Over the past eight years in particular, [the EPA] has completely micromanaged the states. I think you’ll see a real effort to reset that balance. I think he really does believe in the rule of the law. He believes the role of executive branch is to carry out the intent of Congress. I think he’s committed to doing that.”
What do we have to look forward to from the EPA under Pruitt’s leadership?
- An agency that stays within Constitutional and statutory bounds while still acting to protect Americans from harmful pollution.
- An agency that shows its respect for federalism by devolving environmental regulation to state and local levels whenever possible and imposing one-size-fits all federal regulations only when problems are truly national.
- An agency that welcomes the vigorous debate that is the hallmark of real science rather than turning a deaf ear to critics of “consensus.”
- An agency that forswears the corrupt “sue-and-settle” practice whereby it has previously colluded with environmental organizations for them to sue it in friendly venues, EPA not to resist the suits, and judges then to order EPA to do things not clearly authorized by Congressional statute.
In short, what America can expect from Scott Pruitt at the EPA is the restoration of sanity.